New Delhi: Since April 26 results of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi elections gave a severe jolt to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Arvind Kejriwal has been busy firefighting. The Delhi Chief Minister has gone from belligerence to introspection.
Thursday, hours after the MCD results, was day of marathon meetings for the AAP chief. He held three back-to-back meetings — the first with newly elected AAP councillors to administer an “oath of honesty” to them, the second with MLAs to decipher what went wrong, and the third with the party’s political affairs committee (PAC) to chalk out a future strategy.
The day was also marked by a spate of resignations. Punjab state-in-charge Sanjay Singh, co-in-charge Durgesh Pathak and AAP Delhi chief Dilip Pandey took “moral responsibility” for the string of losses. As these resignations flowed in, opponents asked — Will Kejriwal, too, take moral responsibility?
Sources indicate that party leader Kumar Vishwas has smelled an opportunity and is now gunning for the top job of national convener — a post Kejriwal currently holds. This, as many within the party have said that Kerjiwal should either hold the post of Delhi CM, or that of the party convener.
“He hasn’t said anything to us, but we are increasingly getting a sense that Kumar Vishwas wants to become national convener. He senses that there is need for change. Let me tell you this. If Kumar Vishwas carves out a path to the post, not many will stand in his way,” an AAP MLA, on condition of anonymity, said.
Senior AAP leader Alka Lamba said, “Everyone should be given responsibility. We are a democratic party. If Kumar Vishwas’s name is pitched, I will not oppose it.”
Aiming for the top job
Over the last month, the poet-turned-politician has raised eyebrows with veiled attacks at his own party and leader. In a viral video in which he spoke of nationalism, Vishwas attacked all political parties, including his own, for giving rise to their own cults of personalities. While Vishwas mentioned Kejiriwal by name in the video, the Delhi CM prevented any questions being raised by tweeting a link to the video.
Since the party’s MCD loss, however, Vishwas has turned more vocal. In an interview with CNN-News 18, he said the party should learn from its mistakes, adding, “I apologise to our workers. They worked very hard. There has been a communication gap between volunteers and the party leadership.”
Is AAP witnessing factionalism again?
Since the exit of Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan from the party, Arvind Kejriwal emerged as the undisputed leader of the four-year-old party. Kumar Vishwas throwing in the gauntlet, some believe, could signal the rise of an alternative power center. The party, however, has denied that there is any factionalism. Senior leader Kapil Mishra said, “There is only one team in AAP and that is Team Arvind Kejriwal”.
Kejriwal himself tweeted in support of Vishwas, saying, “Kumar is my younger brother. Some people are trying to create a rift between us. Such people are enemies of the party. They better mend their ways. No one can separate us.”
Vishwas then retweeted Kejriwal’s post.
AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan on Thursday become the first party leader to openly train guns against Vishwas, going as far as calling him a “BJP stooge”. This angered Kejriwal, who issued an order asking all party leaders not to air dirty linen in public. But the damage was done and some feel, the controversy ended up strengthening Vishwas’s hand. The controversy and potential action to be taken against Khan became the main agenda of the party’s next scheduled PAC meeting. A group of party volunteers even protested, demanding action against Khan.
Elevation not possible without AK’s blessings
While Kumar Vishwas has been positioning himself for Kejriwal’s job in the party, insiders say it is all in vain unless Kejriwal is on board. “Nobody in the party stands equal to Arvind Kejriwal. Everybody, even Kumar Vishwas, knows that. Nothing will happen unless Arvind approves of it,” a party MLA said.